State police: 'This is a criminal investigation'
An evacuation may be in order for Doyline residents and Camp Minden personnel after one million pounds of M6, a smokeless powder, was found to be stored improperly in the care of Explo Systems, Inc.
"Our main concern right now is getting this information to the public and keeping them informed," Webster Parish Gary Sexton said. "Safety is our number one priority."
Explo, a tenant of approximately 600 acres on Camp Minden, was responsible for a late night explosion on October 15.
"As we followed up with that investigation, in surveying the property, we found the smokeless powder," said Col. Mike Edmonson, head of the Louisiana State Police. "This is not the same material that exploded on October 15, but it is in violation with the Bureau of Tobacco Alcohol and Firearms."
Edmonson said while an exact amount is still unknown at this time, investigators believe it to be more than one million pounds of hazardous material.
"What it is stored in and how it is stored, is not approved by the state or anyone," he said. "While some of it is indoors, some of it is outside. None of it is in an approved container and is mostly held on pallets in cardboard."
Investigators, public entities, and government offices are working together to formulate a plan to move the material.
"In its current state, the material is in its most stable form," Edmonson said. "But before a forklift touches the first pallet, we will have a plan and the public will be aware of it."
In addition to Camp Minden, Bayou Dorcheat Correction Facility, Youth Challenge Program, Doyline residents (approximately 1,100 people) and Doyline School may be asked to evacuate the area.
"I would rather be honest with the public, keep them informed and prepare for a worst case scenario, than to overlook something," Edmonson said.
"That is why we will execute a well-designed plan and keep the media and public informed."
Sexton said the area is familiar with explosions and evacuations.
"No evacuation is mandatory," he said. "I know people around here are used to explosions. But we have a lot of material here, and I hope that should an evacuation take place, that people would be willing to leave for a few hours, rather than the alternative happen should something go wrong."
Edmonson said the cost of the investigation and subsequent events will be covered by responsible parties.
"Be assured that we have questions that will be answered," he said. "Explo is no longer authorized to continue their manufacturing process. After we have safely moved through this process, we will keep the public informed with the criminal investigation. This is a public safety issue and the public has a right to know."
Edmonson said the one million pounds of M6 powder was found Monday during a follow-up inspection after the October 15 explosion investigation.
"We investigated the magazine and surrounding area where the explosion occurred," he said. "It was only because of our curiosity to see the rest of the property that we found the violation. It is on the backside of their lease, which is large."
After seeing the material, a search warrant was obtained for the entire Explo lease.
At presstime, this information was accurate. Officials will hold briefings as a plan is developed. They say information may change and they will keep the public informed. A press-conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. today.
Explo canceled two press conferences after the October 15 explosion and still has not returned Minden Press-Herald calls.